April 19, 2013

14 Obstacles to Church Planting

Housing scheme ministry is a tough gig. It is made somewhat harder when you are and/or have renewed a stagnant and/or dying congregation. We do have to watch out for all sorts of obstacles.

1. People Fatigue – I know I am tired and I need to refocus spiritually when I get sick of people and their problems. When people become the problem, it is time for a spiritual check-up.

2. Losing Visionary Focus – Everybody has an agenda and/or a‘problem’ with what we do. Nobody is 100% happy all of the time. But if we have a larger vision for an area, and we have a good mission plan and vision statement, then we must stick to it. It is easy to be side-tracked by secondary diversions. The Enemy does not want to see the gospel explode in housing schemes. He has held sway over far too many for far too long and he will engage in as many diversionary tactics as he can. Sadly, often through believers and established, traditional churches. Be on your guard.

3. Personal Attack – I have been the subject of personal violence, threats, and intimidation during my ministry. If that doesn’t work, people will try to attack your character, integrity, and the witness of your community. I have been the subject of more than one petition for all sorts of reasons. Again, all to divert from the mission of gospel proclamation and healthy discipleship. Maintain your integrity and witness at all costs. I often find that the worst offenders are disgruntled ‘believers’ who have not appreciated church discipline and have an axe to grind.

4. Marginalisation – Very often, in scheme ministry, we feel like cultural outsiders and almost like a novelty act in church planting and established church circles. It can lead to spiritual depression, bitterness, and lonely isolation. It is one of the reasons I am trying to establish and develop a support and training network for those who wish to work in this specific field in Scotland. The attrition rate for this kind of ministry is high.

5. Ego – Sometimes we are our own biggest enemies. We can get distracted by those who want to tell us how amazing we are doing (granted, not very often in Scottish culture). The problem comes when other churches want you to be their ‘special guest’ speaker and it is easy to spend more time talking about the ministry than actually building and developing it. Say, “no” more than you say,“yes.”

6. Settling Down – This is death to the planter. This is when he becomes a pastor (shock, horror). I wake up in cold sweats at night worrying about this one so we’ll leave it there.

7. Intellectual Atrophy – The danger is that we begin to stop thinking once we have found a pattern and routine that works. Instead, this type of ministry requires quick reflexes and an agile mind that is able to adapt on the fly. Keep reading, studying, learning, challenging yourself, debating and discussing. Keep alert.

8. One Man Band Syndrome – You forget to pass your skills on to the next generation and develop a good leadership training structure. This is closely tied to ego, in that scheme ministry can create a sense of dependency that is hard to let go for some men. If you’re not training leaders then you are storing up trouble for future generations. It is a major reason why we are in this mess now.

9. You become conservative and take less risks. You hide behind language like ‘common sense’ or‘sensible’. When an idea is sold to you, the response is, ‘yes, but . . .’. UK Christianity is often risk averse and baulks at the word ‘radical’. The phrase ‘let’s pray about it’ often becomes a euphemism for ‘let’s procrastinate on this one’. Housing schemes will not be won back by inhabiting the middle, safe ground.

10. Your forget that prayer is the engine room behind all we do and begin to rely on your own abilities, strategies, and talents.

11. You forget that it is all about Jesus.

12. You forget that any increase comes from God’s Holy Spirit.

13. You forget that it is God the Father who is to be honoured above all. Stop stealing his glory!

14. You get old and die – A bit of a downer this one but I am looking forward to the rest! That’s why you must get number 8 right.

One of the greatest obstacles our ministry can face stares back at us from the mirror every morning.